Text-based youth smoking cessation study has mixed results

A Swiss study of text messaging intervention in young people did not have statistically significant short-term effects on smoking cessation, but did result in statistically significant lower cigarette consumption, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

"Smoking prevalence remains high, particularly among adolescents and young adults with lower educational levels, posing a serious public health problem," study authors wrote. "There is limited evidence of effective smoking cessation interventions in this population."

The objective of the study was to test the efficacy of an individually tailored, fully automated text messaging intervention for smoking cessation in young people. A randomized controlled trial, using a school class as the randomization unit, was conducted to test the efficacy of the SMS text messaging intervention compared to an assessment-only control group. The primary outcome measure was seven-day smoking abstinence. Secondary outcomes were four-week smoking abstinence, cigarette consumption, stage of change, and attempts to quit smoking.

A total of 2,638 students in 178 vocational school classes in Switzerland participated in the online screening, and 755 persons (74.6 percent) participated in the study.

"This study demonstrated the potential of an SMS text message-based intervention to reach a high proportion of young smokers with low education levels," concluded the article. "The intervention did not have statistically significant short-term effects on smoking cessation; however, it resulted in statistically significant lower cigarette consumption. Additionally, it resulted in statistically significant more attempts to quit smoking in occasional smokers."

According to a recently released review of evidence from five studies, mobile phone-based interventions are an effective method for helping smokers quit. The interventions included in the review primarily used text messaging via mobile phones to provide motivational messages, support and tips for stopping smoking, resulting in people being more likely to stay away from cigarettes over a six-month period.

Nevertheless, an earlier review by researchers published in 2009 identified two trials for mobile phone-based programs that did not find a long-term improvement in smoking cessation rates. The difference between the earlier review and the new review was that the latter incorporated data from three additional studies, and as a result came to a different conclusion.

To learn more:
- read the article in JMIR